Wednesday…er, Thursday reading, 5 May 2016

Cover: Mistress of the Art of Death

I could have sworn yesterday was Tuesday but apparently not, so today’s bookish thoughts come to you a day late. Luckily, that did give me time to have an actual finished book, which I didn’t have until late last night. This is the problem with reading two longer novels at once!

Last book finished: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. It’s not as morbid as it sounds–it’s a historical mystery, with a doctor who specialises in reading corpses (i.e. an early pathologist) as the central character, and I really enjoyed it. More than I expected to, definitely.

The book is set in medieval Cambridge during Henry II’s reign, and this was a big part of why I enjoyed it: the period is one that I’m already interested in and have read around a fair bit, and it was interesting to get a peek at pre-university Cambridge. It certainly made a nice change from all the Tudor-set mysteries that abound. Not that I mind a Tudor setting–I’m a big fan of the Shardlake books–but it’s nice to get something a bit different. The central character, Adelia, is from Salerno, where the world’s first medical school was founded and women were able to study. I got the strong impression that the author did her research (and is a bit of a Henry II fan–a woman after my own heart), which I always appreciate.

My only tiny quibble with the book was that the conclusion to the mystery plot felt a little rushed. Or may not rushed, but easy. And as much as I enjoyed getting a little bit of Henry II, he was used as a bit of a deus ex machina, which was a shame. Although, at the same time, I did enjoy the way that the story tied into the political divide between church and crown at the time, so it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. It certainly wasn’t enough to put me off reading more by this author! For a start, her conclusion to Adelia’s arc was everything I’d hoped for and not what I expected, which immediately made me want more.

In short, if you’re looking for a historical mystery set in a period that hasn’t been done to death, this is probably going to hit the spot.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I read a page. That’s progress, right?

I’m almost done with the first Wheel of Time book, and it’s every bit as enjoyable as I remembered. A long read, but a worth-while one.

The announcement that they’re making a WoT TV series has made me pretty happy. Yes, there are books by women that would also be awesome, but if this is what we’re getting, I’m pleased. Why? Well, it’s got the big epic feel of Game of Thrones, but the treatment of women in WoT is worlds different. Rape isn’t used as a standard plot point for all the women–they get to be strong and do amazing things without having to overcome sexual assault at every turn. Woo hoo! And WoT has a decent-sized cast of amazing women who are every bit as strong as the GoT women. Rereading the first book has brought home to me how much of a difference there is between the two book series, even though they’re both dealing with huge epic events in secondary medieval-style fantasy worlds. I’ll be watching the progress of the TV series with interest.

Next read: I only finished mystery book last night, so I haven’t picked out a new physical book to read. It’s not like I’m short, though. If anyone wants to browse my current Mount TBR list and suggest something I should prioritise, go right ahead! On my Kindle, I will probably be sinking into some nice easy novellas before I hit the next Wheel of Time book. And I have issue 10 of Uncanny Magazine to read, which has a new short by Seanan McGuire, so that should be excellent.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

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Wednesday books, 27 April 2016

Last book finished: A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab. I liked this, but I didn’t love it. Not in the way that I loved A Darker Shade of Magic, anyway. It took me a long time to get into the book, because it took a long time for the story to really get going. Around the two thirds mark, it finally kicked into gear and hauled me along to an ending that has me itching for the next book, which is what saved it from being a disappointment. I suspect it’s suffering rather strongly from middle book syndrome–hopefully the next one will be stronger.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I will read at least a page this week, I vow.

I’m also still working on Eye of the World, but as that’s a monster tome, I feel pretty happy to be halfway through already. And it’s every bit as good as I remember. Possibly one of the biggest delights is getting memories triggered for things that happened here and were referenced again in later volumes, so this reread is definitely paying off.

Next read:  I’m just about to pick up Mistress of the Art of Death, because it’s a library book that really needs to be read before it has to go back. I’ve run out of renewals. I may also take some mini-breaks from Jordan to read one of the novellas sitting on my Kindle. Courtney Milan’s latest should be a nice relaxing read, when my head gets too filled with Trollocs.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday books, 20 April 2016

Last book finished: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, which I loved. It wasn’t completely perfect: the need to get this in at the right word count for Tor’s novella range seemed to make the ending slightly rushed. But other than that, it was wonderful, and I still highly recommend it to everyone. It’s a book about the children who come back from portal worlds and the ways the adjust to this world–and the ways they never will. I loved the thought that had clearly gone into the consequences of portal stories. McGuire always finds the horrifying side to stories like this, which I appreciate because it’s the deeper, more thoughtful side, too.

This book also includes ace and trans MCs, which I rarely see, and the consequences of their portal adventures are particularly interesting. McGuire has announced there will be two more stories in this world, about characters I was really hoping to get more of, so I look forward to them.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. One day. One day, I’ll finish it. I picked it up this week. Almost opened it. That’s progress, right?

I’m in the middle of two long reads right now. A Gathering of Shadows is back on the go, and I’m getting into it much better now. It took the story a while to get going, but now that it is, I’m there for it. I’ve also begun a reread of the Wheel of Time books, so that I can remember what happened before I tackle the final four, so I’m stuck into Eye of the World and it’s great. This could take a while, though.

Next read: I need to read Mistress of the Art of Death before it goes back to the library. And I’ve got some romance novellas on my Kindle that will probably be pulled out whenever I need a break from Wheel of Time. After all, I still haven’t read Courtney Milan’s newest.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday books, 13 April 2016

Last book finished: I was going to declare that A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles that was my favourite of all her books, but then I read A Gentleman’s Position and it was even better, so there you go. Two books finished in the last week and I adored them both.

Everything I sad about Seditious Affair last week still holds true, and best of all, she stuck the landing. It’s terrific. I couldn’t see how she could possibly make everything work out, but she did, and she did it in a way that was true to both characters.

A Gentleman’s Position is still winning for me, though. Just by a margin, but it’s there. Partially this is because it’s the last book in the trilogy, so it ties up threads that have been running for three books. That makes it hugely satisfying to read. It probably works as a stand-alone, because Charles keeps the reader updated on the plotlines she’s referencing, but I think the pay-off is better if you’ve read all of them. Having all the backstory makes it a richer book.

That element is important, but it’s not what made me flail so hard about this book. It’s this: A Gentleman’s Position is possibly the most intensely-felt romance I’ve read.

I’d been hoping that the tiny hints I saw in the first book about Richard’s feelings feelings for his valet would be fulfilled eventually, but I had no idea that it would be this good.

It’s not a book about falling in love. I think that’s the beauty of it. Both characters have been in love for years, but due to their relative positions, they’ve never acted on it. They’ve kept it hidden, repressed, from each other as well as the rest of the world. At the same time, they’ve formed such a tight bond that neither of them knows how to get by without the other when they are forced apart. They’ve become each other’s closest confidant, which makes the entire situation that bit worse when everything begins to implode, because who would they normally talk to when that happens?

It’s a story about being in love and finding a way to be together, in a world and time where their classes and positions are even more mismatched that Silas and Dominic’s. At least for Silas and Dominic, there wasn’t the tangle of master and servant to work through. It’s about working around the impossible, the depths of the heart, and growing into something better.

One of the things that really resonated, for me, was that Richard is demisexual. The word didn’t exist in the nineteenth century, but it’s expressed in the text, and that’s something I rarely see in fiction. I was delighted to read a hero that I could sympathise so much with.

So, yes. Demisexual hero, intense love story, delightfully wonderful valet, and a conclusion that made me ridiculously happy and satisfied. I’m not sure how anyone is going to beat that for me for a while, at least in the romance genre.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. One day. One day, I’ll finish it. This week, I promise to at least open it and read a sentence, okay?

A Gathering of Shadows is on temporary hiatus while I read Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I’m not sure I can talk about this one until it’s finished, except to say that I am loving it.

Next read: I’ll be back to A Gathering of Shadows after I’ve finished the McGuire, and then, who knows? I’ve got Mistress of the Art of Death out from the library, so I should probably read that before it’s due back.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday books, 6th April 2016

Last book finished: Uh, none? Well, not strictly none. I had to do a bit of a binge on graphic novels this week, because I had things due back at the library. I read Nimona and the first volume of The Lumberjanes, which were both excellent, although Nimona slightly edged out in front. I suspect that’s because it was a complete story and the resolution was so satisfying.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. One day. One day, I’ll finish it.

I’m still loving A Gathering of Shadows, and resenting how busy the last few days have been for me. Hopefully this weekend will garner me some more reading time.

My plan to start the new Courtney Milan was put on hold when I realised that I realised that I’d probably better read A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles before I dig into A Gentleman’s Position. It’s absolutely brilliant. I’d been putting it off for a while because I knew that the relationship between Silas and Dominic included BDSM, which isn’t usually my thing, but now I can’t stop reading it. Hoorah! I should have trusted all the reviews, because they all pointed out that the kinky aspects of the relationship work because of the emotional relationship that has developed between the characters. It’s not a spoiler to note that we join them when they’ve been seeing each other for a year (it’s made apparent on page one) and the core of the book is the way they’ve both reached crisis points in their own lives and their relationship together. That’s an approach I haven’t seen much in romance, so I’m really appreciating it. The other aspect to the book that I’m loving is the way Silas and Dominic’s lives are so tangled in the politics of the time–1819 England–and the way that Charles twists all the pieces together. I’m genuinely flummoxed by how good this is, particularly after so many months of not quite daring to open it.

Next read: A Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles downloaded to my Kindle yesterday, so I’ll be rolling straight into that after I finish A Seditious Affair. Heh. It’s probably a good thing that I’m still in the middle of A Gathering of Shadows, because Canada Post is being ridiculously slow at delivering Every Heart a Doorway, so at least I’ve got a good book to read while I wait. Grr arrgh and all that.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday…er, Thursday reading, 24 March 2016

I know, a day late again. Yesterday was too busy to think, and this is one post that I never like to write up in advance. So, it’s Thursday. Woops. But my reading has been great!

Last book finished: Updraft by Fran Wilde, and I loved it. The world building is absolutely fantastic, and utterly critical to the plot. That’s the kind of fantasy I like–worlds where the plot is more than just window-dressing, it’s a part of what shapes the characters and drives the story. I’m so intrigued by this world that I’m impatient for the next book, just to find out more. You’ll understand what I mean when I read it. There is so much backstory hinted at about the world, and I need it. The characters were the other big flailing glee point. So many to adore. And some to love hating. And a couple of characters I wasn’t sure about until the end, because they didn’t fit easily into the good guy/bad guy camp, which is always good.

Honestly, it’s one of those books that I can’t stop flailing over. Highly recommended.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I did open it and read a paragraph. And then I had to go back and reread a few bits to figure out where I’d got to. Erm.

Sound the klaxons, I finally began Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear! Why did it take me so long to get here?

Right, inconveniently timed library holds and preordered books I couldn’t stop reading.

I’m sixty pages in and loving it already. It’s fantastic. Bear is an author who usually sticks her landing, so I have high hopes for this. And I’ve got a long weekend coming up to wallow in it properly.

Next read: I’m on such a good reading roll that I’m almost scared that I’m tempting fate whatever I pick. But I’ve had A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab for nearly a month and haven’t had time to read it yet, and trusted friends have reassured me it’s as good as the first book, so that’ll probably be my pick. After that…well, I’ve got some preorders scheduled for April 😀

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday reading, 16 March 2016

Last book finished: Rag and Bone by KJ Charles, which I enjoyed hugely. The world building was a delight, as her books always are, and the plot was fun, but it was the relationship was what really stood out to me. It’s m/m romance, but it’s about what happens after the HFN. It’s about making things word despite all the reasons it shouldn’t, getting it wrong, and trying again. I’m quietly hoping to see these two again, but even if I don’t, this has been one of my top reads so far this year.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I didn’t even read one page this week. Bad me.

Updraft by Fran Wilde is fantastic. I’m halfway through and I’ve had to make a “no reading when I have to do stuff like go to sleep or be somewhere” rule, because I can’t put it down when I start reading.

Next read: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. Absolutely. This is my determined face. Do you see my determined face? *makes face*

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday…er, Thursday reading, 10 March 2016

Last book finished: Simply Magic by Mary Balogh. She’s one of my go-to authors for Regency romance–I’ve been spreading out her Bedwyn series slowly, because I love it so, and I allow myself a new one every now and again as a special treat. The Simply series is related to the Bedwyn, so there are character cross-overs, but all the heroines are schoolteachers rather than aristocrats. That gave this book a different flavour that I really enjoyed–must find the others in the series. The heroine of this one, Susanna, has a complicated past that is connected to the hero’s in an unexpected way. It puts real obstacles in their way that they had to work through, which made the resolution much sweeter. I also enjoyed the way their relationship grew from a deep friendship, giving it a foundation that made me root for them as things got complicated. In short, a book that I’d definitely recommend.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I didn’t even read one page this week. Bad me.

Updraft by Fran Wilde came in at the library on Friday, so I had to get started on that as soon as I finished the Balogh. There’s a hold list, so I can’t renew it, and I wanted to assess it for Hugo nominating before the end of the month. I sense that it will be devoured rapidly, though, because the first chapter has me hooked.

I’ve almost finished Rag and Bone by KJ Charles and I can honestly say that I’m absolutely loving it, and feeling slightly sad that it’s almost all gone. I’ll probably finish it tonight, because I’m at one of those “can’t put it down” stages, and I nearly forgot to go back to work after lunch due to it!

Next read: I’ve really got to read Karen Memory for my Hugo nominations consideration before I start anything else. Must not be tempted to dive straight into A Gathering of Shadows. Must not. Must be good.

I have no definite plans for what to read on my Kindle after Rag and Bone, mostly because there are too many unread things tempting me!

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday reading, 2 March 2016

Last book finished: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl.  My romance tastes usually lie more towards the historical or paranormal, but I’ve seen Dahl’s work recommended in a lot of places so when I saw this in the library, I decided to take a chance. I did miss the more external-events-as-plot focus of my usual genres, but I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this. It was fun and fluffy at times, but there were some deeper themes about the faces we present to the world versus true selves and taking chances with that truth that I appreciated. I’m not going to hurl myself into an all contemporary romance diet in the future, but I’m probably more likely to try another now.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I read one page this week, which is one page more than last week!

I picked up Simply Magic by Mary Balogh (another unfortunate accident from the library) just before another preordered book came in, so I need to finish that first. Grr. On my Kindle, I finished a book just as Rag and Bone by KJ Charles released, so that was perfect timing and I’m already loving it.

Next read: I’ve really got to read Karen Memory for my Hugo nominations consideration before I start anything else. Must not be tempted to dive straight into A Gathering of Shadows. Must not. Even though a friend was tormenting me with it last night.

Too many books, not enough hours in the day.

Wednesday reading, 24 February 2016

Last book finished: I finished Interim Errantry by Diane Duane last night. It’s structured as two novellas and a novel, so it’s a hefty read, but it didn’t feel that long. The two shorter works were both lovely, light and fun, which was a big contrast to the longer work. While there were a lot of fun moments in the novel, Lifeboats was dealing in big world ending events rather than delightful Christmas parties, so it had to be more somber. It felt quite different from Duane’s other Young Wizards books, and the reason for that became apart in the afterword. She describes it as the book she couldn’t have got published through traditional means, because it’s all about being a small cog in the mechanism of a much bigger thing, rather than the focus. That’s an accurate summary: Kit, Nita, and friends are working with eighteen thousand other wizards to save a world. They’re not the stars of the intervention, they’re a part of it, and that changes their role. It’s quite different from other books in that way, and although that made it harder to read in places, it’s a book that I’m glad Duane wrote.

I also finished a reread of Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, but I don’t think that I need to explain why I loved rereading a Cordelia book after last week’s review of Gentleman Jole!

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status.  

I was going to read something for my Hugo nominations research…but then the library happened to me. I’m reading my first contemporary romance in I-don’t-know-how-long, Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl, and enjoying it more than I expected to.

After finishing Interim Errantry, I picked up A Queer Trade by KJ Charles, which is the prequel novella to a novel that’s coming out next week, Rag and Bone. It’s entirely possible that I’ll finish that tonight, because it’s fabulous. And then I’ll be impatient waiting for the novel to show up on my Kindle on Tuesday.

Next read: I’ve really got to read Karen Memory for my Hugo nominations consideration, before more preordered books fall on my doorstep. No more library accidents! No! Must not look…except for those holds that just came in. Oops.